The Intelligence Bureau (IB) had in November end generated a specific input regarding a very imminent possibility of a terrorist strike in Indian territory bordering Pakistan and a specific place in New Delhi.
IB’s input was based on reports that it had gathered regarding a meeting that took place in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir between Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and around 25 top leaders of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohhammad in which it was decided to carry out a series of terror strikes in northern parts of India, including Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Delhi. The attack on Saturday morning in Punjab’s Pathankot, whose target was the Indian Air Force base, and was carried out by the JeM cadre, was also a result of the same deliberation which the ISI and terror groups carried out in November.
A “commander” of another organisation, which operates along the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan and provides a supportive role to both Lashkar and Jaish, told this newspaper that the Jaish was in the process of regrouping. “Most of its workers have been killed in the past two years and here (in the border areas) it does not have much influence. Jaish is still in the process of regrouping so that it can emerge larger than the Lashkar,” he said.
Intelligence agencies have confirmed that all the four gunmen who were killed on Saturday morning by the security forces were from the JeM and their base has been identified as Bahawalpur in Pakistan.
“The attack was not unexpected. Whether there was a lapse in security or how so many well armed terrorists managed to sneak deep into the Indian territory is something that will be looked into,” an official with the IB said.
Official sources said that the re-emergence of JeM was a bad sign for the security establishment as the group believes in carrying out audacious attacks with the intent to inflict the maximum damage. The JeM, which was founded by Maulana Masood Azhar in 2000, soon after he was freed from the Kot Bhalwal prison by the Atal Behari Vajpayee led government in exchange for the safe return of Indian passengers on aircraft IC 814, which was hijacked from Nepal and taken to Kandahar. Soon after his release, the JeM carried out the 2001 attack on Indian Parliament.
Its most recent attack took place in November when the group carried out a fidayeen attack in Tangdhar, Kupwara.
Officials said that the Pathankot attack was not in response to the Narendra Modi-Nawaz Sharif diplomacy as was being reported by the media. “These attacks are planned in advance and to attribute it to the recent bonhomie between the two PMs will be childish. We all know that the ISI operates independently in Pakistan, and these terror groups get the support of the ISI, not the entire Pakistan government,” an official with the IB said.